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Tutrakan (Bulgarian: Тутракан) is a small town in North-Eastern Bulgaria, a fishing port on the bank of the Danube. It's notable mostly as the site of a major battle in World War I and the resulting military cemetery.


Ruins of Transmarisca, with the riverside park's modern amphitheatre stage in the background (2015)
Romanian river gunboats during the battle, 1950s oil painting.

With a population of about 9 thousand (2020), Tutrakan is the administrative centre of the local municipality, which in turn is part of the oblast (Province/District) of Silistra. As a tourist destination, it's mostly visited in passing by Bulgarian and (fewer) Romanian tourists, so adjust your expectations about the available services accordingly.


Like elsewhere in Bulgaria, the area has been inhabited since prehistoric times. Local finds have been dated to the Neolithic and Aeneolithic periods, 5500-3000 years BCE. The town itself can trace its beginnings to the 1st century CE, when a Roman border fortress (castrum or castellum) was established under the name Transmarisca - "on the other side of the swamps". In the 3rd century, the Roman emperor Diocletian visited the fortress and ordered it enlarged and strengthened. The settlement was destroyed sometime in the 6-7th centuries, but re-emerged in the Early Middle Ages, during the First and later, Second Bulgarian Empires, and then was conquered by the Ottoman Turks in the late 14th century with the rest of the Tarnovo Kingdom.

During the gunpowder era, Tutrakan became a point on the northern boundary of the "quadrilateral of fortresses" RuseSilistraVarnaShumen that protected the Ottoman Empire against invasion attempts across the eastern Danube. The town played a role in the wars between the Ottoman and the Russian empires in the late 18th and early 19th century. It was taken twice by the famous Russian military leader Alexander Suvorov in 1773, and once again by another famous Russian general - Mikhail Kutuzov - in 1810. During the Bulgarian struggles for national liberation, the cheta (rebel band) of Panayot Hitov crossed the Danube into Bulgaria at Tutrakan, with future national hero Vasil Levski as the banner-man.

After the Russo-Turkish War of 1877-1878, Tutrakan became a part of the newly created Principality of Bulgaria. By the 1900s the town was an established minor port for river steamships and a fishing and boat-building centre. In the Second Balkan War (1913), Romania took advantage of Bulgaria's weakness and annexed Southern Dobrudzha (including Dobrich and Silistra), with the new border line passing west of Tutrakan. The town became known under the Romanian form of the name: Turtucaia.

The Tutrakan Epic (Battle of Turtucaia)[edit]

A few years later, after World War I started, Bulgaria and Romania joined opposing sides. Because of the favourable geography, Romania had recognized Tutrakan as a bridgehead for a potential pontoon bridge across the Danube in case of a war with Bulgaria. Consequently, the town had been heavily fortified, surrounded by a defensive line a few kilometres away, with trenches, barbed wire, machine-gun nests and cannon emplacements. Fifteen small forts were spread along the line.

On September 1st 1916, a combined Bulgarian-German-Ottoman force launched an invasion of Southern Dobrudzha, with two main targets - Dobrich and Tutrakan. The Bulgarian forces encircled the fortress, and on September 5th began storming it, taking it on the 6th. They suffered heavy casualties, but managed to capture between 22 and 28 thousand Romanian soldiers and officers. It was decided to bury the fallen from all sides on the site of Fort No.7, which became the current military cemetery. Because of the fierce fighting, in Bulgarian historiography the battle is known as "the Tutrakan Epic" (Tutrakanskata epopeya), analogous to "the Dobrich Epic".

For Bulgarians at the time, the invasion's purpose was to liberate occupied Dobrudzha. In a broader historical perspective, the successes of the battles of Tutrakan and Dobrich lead to the opening of a second front against Romania, providing a reprieve for the Central Powers in Transylvania. But all was in vain: Bulgaria and the Central Powers lost the war, and Southern Dobrudzha remained Romanian until it was regained with the Treaty of Craiova in 1940. Tutrakan suffered during the wars and the following occupation, and river steamboats lost their relevance. With fishing in decline ever since, Tutrakan remains just a small commercial hub for the surrounding countryside.

Tourist information[edit]

  • The Old Houses of Tutrakan, an online guide (in English) with the histories of 20 still-standing old houses, including the ones housing the History Museum and the Art Gallery. There's an interactive map.

Get in[edit]

As of 2024, the proposed ro-ro ferry to Oltenița in Romania across the river is still not operational (and may never be...).

By car[edit]

Tutrakan is on National Road 21 which connects the larger Ruse and Silistra, exactly half-way between them: it's 61 km (38 mi) east of Ruse and 60 km (37 mi) west of Silistra. The road itself closely bypasses the town from the south, with three entry options: both east and west of town, a road splits off Road 21 to the north to become a town street that passes by the museums and riverside park. The third option is between those two points, a crossroads where Road 21 meets the tertiary Road 205 that connects Tutrakan to Isperih, 49 km (30 mi) to the south, passing on the way by the Military Cemetery at the village of Shumentsi (Шуменци).

By bus[edit]

Tutrakan is a stop on the routes that connect Silistra with Sofia, Veliko Tarnovo and Ruse, which ensures daily buses from those directions. There's also an once daily direct bus from Varna that passes through Silistra and Dobrich. A number of small companies run buses to Ruse and Silistra that follow meandering routes through the local villages.

  • 1 Bus Station (Автогара, Avtogara), ul. "Silistra" 54 (in the eastern outskirts, on the same Silistra Str that passes north of Hristo Botev Park). Angular, utilitarian Communist-era building (1980s?).

Among the local lines, of interest to travellers is Line 22 that passes by the military cemetery by the village of Shumentsi (Шуменци). According to a probably outdated timetable on the Municipality's website, the line runs to the village of Preslavtsi (Преславци), stopping at Shumentsi on the way - the bus leaves in the morning and returns from Preslavtsi in the mid-afternoon. (The names of the villages mean respectively "people from Shumen/Preslav", and might have been inspired by the participation of the Shumen and Preslav infantry regiments in the battle.)

Get around[edit]

Tutrakan is a small town, so you can easily get anywhere on foot, with the exception of the military cemetery (see below).


Most points of interest are concentrated in the area by the river in the north of town, next to the riverside park.

  • 1 History Museum (Исторически музей), pl. "Suvorov" 1. M-F 08:00-12:00, 13:00-17:00; Apr-Sep: Sa-Su 09:00-12:00, 13:00-16:00; Oct: same Sa, closed Su; Nov-Mar: closed Sa-Su. Pretty European-style house from the late 19th century. Exhibits include Stone Age tools, finds from the Roman fortress, early 20th century life in the town, and the Battle of Tutrakan. Adults: 5 лв, pensioners/students/disabled: 3 лв, children below 7: free; lecture/tour: 10 лв.
  • 2 Museum of Danube Fishing and Boatbuilding (Етнографски музей „Дунавски риболов и лодкостроене“), ul. "Transmariska" 5, +359 86 660 352. The same hours and prices as the history museum. An ethnographic museum about fishing and boat-building in the area through the ages, as well as the everyday life of people by and on the river in the past. Tools, explanations of fishing methods, and even the kinds of fish. Museum of Danube Fishing and Boat-Making, Tutrakan (Q12279998) on Wikidata
  • 3 Art Gallery (Художествена галерия), ul. "Dimitar Blagoev" 5. M-F 08:00-12:00, 13:00-17:00. Another pretty old European-style building. Unsurprisingly, most of the paintings are river landscapes. It's also used as a ceremonial hall for officiating weddings and other secular ceremonies. Adults: 5 лв; lecture/tour: 10 лв.
  • 4 Ruins of Transmarisca. Parts of the northern wall and a square tower of the Roman fortress, with some conservation/restoration work done. Integrated in the riverside park as a viewing platform.
  • 5 Torpedo Boat Monument (right in the middle of the riverside park). An actual 19-metre (62 ft) craft on a concrete plinth. Erected by the Communist regime in 1984, for the 40th anniversary of the visit of Soviet armoured river gunboat No. 214, commanded by Hero of the Soviet Union, Captain Pavel Derzhavin. Its mission was to get food for the Soviet troops massed across the river for the invasion of Bulgaria, making the crew the first Soviets on Bulgarian territory in WW2. The actual boat on the monument is unrelated - it's just a post-war, Soviet-made torpedo boat of the Project 123-K class, decommissioned from the Bulgarian Navy.
  • 6 St. Nicholas Church (Храм “Св. Николай“) (less than 100 m/yd east of the History Museum and the Art Gallery, where a small street branches off Dimitar Balgoev Str towards the river). Old town church dedicated to the patron saint of sailors and fishermen. It's a three-nave church with a dome, completed in 1865, and contains wood carvings by masters of the Tryavna School. Functioning Orthodox temple, so mind your behaviour.
    • The side streets surrounding the church are the remnants of the Fishermen's Quarter (Ribarska mahala), including simple 19th century houses in various states of (dis)repair.
  • 7 Monument to the Fallen (centrepiece of the small Hristo Botev Park). Pretty standard war memorial with slabs of names of the soldiers from Tutrakan killed in the Balkan Wars and World War I and II. Not to be confused with the memorial complex at the Military Cemetery!

Out of town[edit]

Getting there requires either a car or a bike. A bus line might exist (see above). Hiking is theoretically possible, but probably not pleasant - narrow two-lane country road passing through open fields.

  • 8 Military Cemetery (by the village of Shumentsi (Шуменци), 9 km (5.6 mi) south of Tutrakan's city centre; there's a pull-off on the western side of Road 205). Both individual and collective graves of Bulgarian, German, Romanian and Turkish soldiers who fell in the Battle of Tutrakan. There are several monuments from different eras (the earliest - from 1922, with inscriptions in four languages), old cannons, and a chapel of St. George (dedicated in 2007). Since April 2024, there's also a small on-site museum exhibition with 3D maps and various "digital immersive experiences". One of the 100 National Tourist Sites of Bulgaria. The cemetery is also used for anniversary commemorations and re-enactments, so don't be alarmed if you see armed people in odd military uniforms if you show up in the beginning of September.



At least one local company still makes boats - out of fibreglass. If you need a kayak, a small speedboat, or a swan-shaped single-seater, you can find them near the harbour.


See also the hotel section for combined establishments.

  • 1 Taverna Botevi (Таверна "Ботеви") (west of the church, (under)ground floor of a residential house along the same narrow "fishermen's street" that runs parallel to the river). M-F 11:00-24:00, Sa-Su 16:00-24:00. Small, family-run restaurant/pub in the Fishermen's Quarter.
  • 2 Mehana Dalboka (Механа "Дълбока"), ul. "Borovets" 1. 16:00-23:00. Small, family-run traditional-style restaurant in a residential area of small houses with yards.
  • 3 Restaurant Fischer, ul. "Ribarska" 8 (west of the church, along the same "fishermen's street" that runs parallel to the river). Family-run restaurant in one of the old houses in the Fishermen's Quarter. Both indoor and outdoor seating, tanks for live fish.


  • 1 Cafe Havana, ul. "Slava Ognyanov" 2 (ground floor of a low commercial building, on the east side of Hristo Botev Park). 07:00-24:00. Outdoor seating in the warmer months. Also serves alcohol.


There are also several guest houses and other similar lodgings.

  • 1 Hotel Dunav (Хотел "Дунав"), ul. "Transmariska" 63. Small, family-run 3-star hotel in a modernized rowhouse/terraced house. There's free Wi-Fi and a restaurant. Twin: 52 лв, single w/ river view: 52 лв; twin/double w/ river view: 58 лв.
  • 2 Hotel-Restaurant Lodkata (The Boat), ul. "Ribarska" 82. Two-star family-run hotel in a converted residential building. The restaurant seems to be the main business, with a nice view of the Danube. Extra-large bed double: 80 лв, apartment: 90 лв.


Go next[edit]

  • Ruse to the west, Silistra to the east
  • If for some reason you decide to skip those and you like driving along country roads, you can go directly south to Isperih (with the Thracian Tomb at Sveshtari, a UNESCO World Heritage Site) and Razgrad with the ruins of Roman Abritus
This city travel guide to Tutrakan is a usable article. It has information on how to get there and on restaurants and hotels. An adventurous person could use this article, but please feel free to improve it by editing the page.